A great spot for a special occasion
Unums47 E. Pearl St., Nashua
Serving: Monday-Saturday, 5 p.m.-closing
Pricing: Appetizers $10-$15; Entrees: $15-$35
And it was our good fortune to choose Unums in downtown Nashua. The food was wonderful. The atmosphere was great. All in all, it made for a very special evening out.
First impressions: 17/20
Unums is located a block east of Main Street in a freestanding storefront. Inside, the space is divided into three distinct areas: At the front of the building, along the plate glass windows, the hostess stand and half a dozen or so tables are set against a stone-faced half wall that gives the area the feeling of an indoor patio. Up a few steps are the main dining room and, to one side in the L-shaped space, the curved bar. There's no stone here – the feeling is wood and warmth. The grill is at the far end of the dining room, giving patrons a clear view of the cooks in action. We opted to sit in the main dining room, which, on a busy weekend night, we found a bit noisy. The front of the house near the windows seemed to offer a quieter, more intimate environment. We'll know better for next time.
Our Gourmet: The appetizer menu isn't long, but it is varied. I was tempted by the Fois Gras, but decided on the Bacon Jam Scallops ($14). Two large pan-seared scallops were topped with tiny dice of thick bacon in a spicy, sweet sauce — think pepper jelly for the combination of sugars and heat. Totally out of the ordinary, but perfectly executed. The Dining Companion's Crab Cakes were right up there, too. 10/10
The Dining Companion: I chose the Crab Cakes ($15). Since the appetizers were served in pairs, I was able to have one of each, and I'm glad I did. The crab cake was delicate, light on the fillers, and cooked perfectly. The dipping sauce had the perfect amount of heat so as to not overpower the delicate crab but enhance the flavor. The Bacon Jam Scallops were fantastic — a large sea scallop perfectly pan seared. The bacon jam gave it a sweet richness, and as The Bottomless Pit would say, “If it's got bacon, it's got to be good.” 10/10
OG: I remembered that the last time I had duck was at an anniversary dinner, so I decided this would be a good occasion to try it again. Unums' Roast Duck ($26) featured thickly sliced breast meat — tender and moist with a delicately seasoned crispy skin — with a richly flavored cherry rhubarb sauce served on a bed of light, flavorful “summer herb” risotto and sauteed green beans. If this were my anniversary entree every year, I'd be a happy man. Wait — I mean “an even happier” man! 9/10
TDC: Never having tried Sea Bass ($34) before, I decided to venture out of my comfort zone. The fish was encrusted in a peppercorn melange and served over wasabi mashed potatoes with fresh vegetables. When I saw the thickness of the cut of fish, I was sure it was going to either be overcooked and dry on the outside or raw on the inside. The pan searing turned the peppercorns into a firm crusty shell, leaving the sea bass absolutely moist and thoroughly cooked throughout. I must say that this is probably the best white fish I have ever had. Wasabi mashed potatoes were also a new taste sensation. There was just enough wasabi to make it interesting and give it that extra bite that perfectly complemented the Sea Bass. I would highly recommend this to any fish lover who also likes a peppery flair. 10/10
OG: One of the benefits of gourmet-style cuisine is that you aren't usually faced with the massive servings so typical of today's restaurants. That's good, because then you don't feel like you're overdoing it when you order a dessert like the Coppa Mascarpone ($9). A bowl filled with a layer of chocolate cream, another of sweet mascarpone cream and topped with amaretto cookie crumbs and chocolate curls, it was light and rich and a perfect finish for a great meal. 9/10
TDC: I am still on my quest to find Tiramisu that can meet or surpass that wonderful piece of heaven that we enjoyed from a Italian pasty/dessert shop in the Little Italy section of Baltimore. I know taste can be very subjective, and although I have not found it yet, Unums' Tiramisu ($9) is one of a handful in New Hampshire that I would say come close. It had a good mocha flavor, but the flavor wasn't as rich as I would like and although creamy, wasn't as light and fluffy. 8/10
Final thoughts: 15/20
Online menu surfers should be aware that the menu posted on Unums' website, dated February 2012, is somewhat different from the one we saw when we dined there two weeks ago. (That was to our dismay, since we don't take notes while we eat and often refer back to the online menu for pricing and other details.) All that aside, the menu is a little bit comfort food and a little bit haute cuisine. It's fairly expensive — our three-course dinner for two, with a glass of wine and two coffees, came to $132 with tax — but we knew what to expect going in, and the food and atmosphere lived up to the price. It wouldn't fit our budget as an every-week place, but for a special occasion, we'd happily go back and recommend it to our friends.
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